There’s no question that Nicki Minaj is a queen in her own right. She inspires millions, being one of a small number of female rappers who made the big time. In many of her songs and videos, she’s fierce, confident and quite literally annihilating the male gaze (like in the video for her single “Lookin’ Ass”). All that being said, it’s hard to deny that Nicki Minaj embraces some form of feminism. But is her brand of feminism for everyone?
Nicki is a very strong woman who completely owns her sexuality. Although she is usually wearing revealing outfits, and partaking in beauty routines and behaviors that reflect gender norms, it’s always on her own terms. She flaunts her sexuality, but makes it clear that it’s for herself and not for the enjoyment of the male on-looker. The way she doesn’t let Drake touch her when she was dancing for him in the “Anaconda” video, for example, is a reflection of her expressing her sexuality but not necessarily for anyone else’s benefit. Nicki teaches girls to embrace their sexuality, but not to sell it to the highest bidder. Personal sexuality and sexual independence are very important lessons for girls to learn in a society that teaches us we are less sexual than boys (far from the truth), and sometimes even to cover up and be ashamed of our bodies and carnal instincts.
However, Nicki is not only pointing her gun at the men. Her raps express feelings of competition and hostility towards women, which is exactly the attitude that holds women back from advancement. Some feel that as a female rapper Nicki has disappointed her potential fans (Jasmine Mans, who wrote and performed a slam poem about it, was one of many disappointed by this). Instead of opening up opportunities to young women and minorities, she seems to seal the game for herself. Her flaunting of empowerment and sexuality is threatening to both men and women alike, and is very exclusionary. She annihilates both the male gaze and the idea of united womanhood, and fails to speak for the oppressed.
Nicki Minaj is not a feminist for the masses, but she’s at least a lady who seems to be in charge of her sexuality. If nothing else, we can always use a brush-up on our ass-kicking and ball-busting skills. For more on Nicki Minaj as a feminist, read this.
Top photo: Anaconda